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Catholic school taxpayers to vote on downtown land purchase
YCS wants to borrow $1.41 million to buy downtown land for classrooms

Terrence McEachern
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 9, 2011

Catholic school ratepayers will vote in a referendum Sept. 26 on whether to borrow $1.41 million from the GNWT to purchase land adjacent to Weledeh School.

Mike Huvenaars, assistant superintendent for business with Yellowknife Catholic Schools, said ratepayers eligible to vote are property owners who contribute 100 per cent of the amount allocated to school taxes to Yellowknife Catholic Schools.

The vote will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the conference room of the YCS board office at 5124 49 St. A public meeting on the issue is scheduled for Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. at the board office.

Huvenaars said if voters decide to proceed with the purchase, the bylaw next goes to the minister of education and the minister of finance for final approval.

The YCS board unanimously approved a bylaw to borrow the money from the GNWT Sept. 6.

"I think this is fiscally responsible for us to proceed with this," said Mary Vane, chair of the Yellowknife Catholic School Board at Tuesday's meeting. "We are already renting space for our classrooms. The need for classrooms - I don't think is going to change. So, I think it is a most responsible position of this board to proceed with this land acquisition."

Huvenaars led the noon meeting with a brief presentation to the five school trustees present.

YCS wants to purchase a 2,500 square metre area of land behind Weledeh School up to and including the Tallah Building, located at 4509 Franklin Ave. beside the old Prestige nightclub. Originally the property's owners, the Rocher family, wanted the nightclub included in the deal, but the YCS declined, said Huvenaars. Currently, YCS is paying $4,200 a month in rent for three portable classrooms it has on the land whereas the Tallah Building is being used by Aurora College for a mine training simulator as well as classroom space at a base cost of $98,947 a year.

The bylaw will allow the YCS to borrow the $1.41-million purchase cost of the land from the GNWT at a flexible interest rate of 2.3 per cent. If this rate holds, the loan will be paid off in 13.9 years at a payment rate of $10,000 a month, comprised of both principal and interest payments.

The other option was to borrow the money from a bank with a higher interest rate of between five and six per cent. At that rate, it would take YCS 17.9 years to repay the loan. The bylaw stipulates the loan must be paid off in 20 years.

Huvenaars said when savings from being a land owner rather than a renter, along with the rental income from Aurora College minus the mortgage payments is calculated, YCS expects to make a profit of $34,000 a year.

The trustees at the meeting, Lee Stroman, Gerda Hazenberg, Barb McDonald, Vane and Rose-Marie Jackson, unanimously approved all three readings of the bylaw. After the first reading, Jackson pointed out that with interest, the actual amount paid back would be much higher than the $1.41 million the bylaw allows YCS to borrow.

Huvenaars agreed, and calculated that based on a 13.9 year plan, the amount repaid would be about $1.6 million. However, he added that a 2.3 per cent interest rate was a good deal, and reminded the board that the YCS would be making a profit on the acquisition.

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